How Checklists Spur (Not Spar) Creative Success

Be a list maker

Whether you actively think about them or not, we have checklists attached to almost everything we do.

When you’re leaving for vacation you:

  • Turn the thermostat down.
  • Take out the trash (and clean out that fridge…gross).
  • Set the alarm.

When you’re heading to the DMV or any Government office you:

  • Bring every remotely relevant piece of paper known to man.
  • Take deep breaths.
  • Pray for a swift exit (“pleasant experience” rarely applies).

As professionals, especially “creatives”, it’s easy to lose checklists, because outcomes are not always template-based. At Proof, we might change direction several times during the course of a project timeline, based on feedback, additional requests, or the weather (just kidding). So, even when the idea seems constraining, it’s critical for us to maintain checklists as we move from concept to completion, to ensure we honor the integrity of our brand.

Professional standards are paramount, and should be incorporated into checklists relevant to your specific role, and then, if applicable, into a broader one that speaks to your holistic performance as a team. Don’t leave to-do’s hanging in the headspace of good intentions. Write them down, keep them where you can see them, and learn to value them for professional accountability.

Define Your Role-Specific Checklist.

For role-specific contributions, “specific” is the key word. Go nuts. And think about starting with the easiest item to forget.

For example, my list as a writer should include things like:

  • Are header styles consistent?
  • Are there any grammatical errors?
  • Did I embody tone correctly?

For my “Type B” personality, a more logical, almost mathematical reference sheet keeps me from getting too lost in one part of a project, and reminds me that I’m responsible for multiple levels of deliverables.

Creating, maintaining, and mastering individual checklists help us perform better on our own and as members of a team.

Define Your Holistic Checklist.

A more general, combined checklist is equally important to a brand as a whole. When you’re a member of a larger team, it’s easy to focus solely on your own tasks, forgetting that all the pieces have to come together to make a whole. For example, when Proof reviews a project, some of our items should include:

  • Did we tell the story of the brand in an engaging and effective manner?
  • Did we bring the voice of the brand to life through copy, design, and development?
  • Did we address feedback in a respectful and productive manner?

When you check everything off the list as a team, it feels good, it removes stress, and it builds your strength as a unit.

Whether the items on your checklists are smaller tasks or focus on the big picture, it feels different when something’s in writing. You’re responsible for it. You answer to it. You learn from it.

So, go ahead and try it. Be a list-maker, and let a few checklists ramp up your skills and efficiency as a creative individual and as a team.

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